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Originally published Friday, February 21, 2014 at 6:25 PM

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Obama to award belated Medal of Honor to veterans of past wars

The unusual mass ceremony will honor 24 veterans, most of Hispanic or Jewish heritage, who had already been recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest military award. Only three of the recipients are living.


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WASHINGTON — Seeking to correct potential acts of bias spanning three wars, President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans after a congressionally mandated review to ensure that eligible recipients were not bypassed due to prejudice.

The unusual mass ceremony, scheduled for March 18, will honor veterans, most of Hispanic or Jewish heritage, who had already been recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest military award. Only three of the recipients are living.

The Army conducted the review under a directive from Congress in the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act. The law required that the record of each Jewish-American and Hispanic-American veteran who received a Service Cross during or after World War II be reviewed for possible upgrade to the Medal of Honor.

The Pentagon said the Army reviewed the cases of the 6,505 recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars and found an eligible pool of 600 soldiers.

The Army also worked with the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, the Jewish War Veterans of the USA and the American GI Forum, the largest Hispanic-American veterans group, to pinpoint potential medal recipients.

Of the 24, eight fought in the Vietnam War, nine in the Korean War and seven in World War II.

The three living recipients are all veterans of the Vietnam War:

• Spc. 4 Santiago J. Erevia, of San Antonio, for courage during a search-and-clear mission near Tam Ky, South Vietnam, on May 21, 1969.

• Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris of Cocoa, Fla., for courageous actions during combat near Chi Lang, South Vietnam, on Sept. 17, 1969.

• Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela, of San Antonio, for courage during combat operations in Phuoc Long province, South Vietnam, on Sept. 1, 1969.

Posthumous recipients:

• Sgt. Candelario Garcia, born in Corsicana, Texas, for courageous actions during combat in Lai Khe, South Vietnam, on Dec. 8, 1968.

• Spc. 4 Leonard L. Alvarado, born in Bakersfield, Calif., died during combat in Phuoc Long province, South Vietnam, on Aug. 12, 1969.

• Staff Sgt. Felix M. Conde-Falcon, born in Juncos, Puerto Rico, killed during combat in Ap Tan Hoa, South Vietnam, on April 4, 1969.

• Spc. 4 Ardie R. Copas of Fort Pierce, Fla., killed during combat near Ph Romeas Hek, Cambodia, on May 12, 1970.

• Spc. 4 Jesus S. Duran, of San Bernardino, Calif., for courageous actions during combat in South Vietnam on April 10, 1969.

• Cpl. Joe R. Baldonado, born in Colorado, killed during combat in Kangdong, North Korea, on Nov. 25, 1950.

• Cpl. Victor H. Espinoza, of El Paso, Texas, for courageous actions during combat in Chorwon, North Korea, on Aug. 1, 1952.

• Sgt. Eduardo C. Gomez, born in Los Angeles, for courageous actions combat in Tabu-dong, South Korea, on Sept. 3, 1950.

• Pfc. Leonard Kravitz, born in New York City, killed during combat in Yangpyong, South Korea, on March 6-7, 1951.

• Master Sgt. Juan E. Negron of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, for courageous actions during combat in Kalma-Eri, North Korea, on April 28, 1951.

• Master Sgt. Mike C. Peña, born in Newgulf, Texas, killed during combat in Waegwan, South Korea, on Sept. 4, 1950.

• Pvt. Demensio Rivera, born in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, for courageous actions during combat in Changyong-ni, South Korea, on May 23, 1951.

• Pvt. Miguel A. Vera, born in Puerto Rico, killed during combat in Chorwon, North Korea, on Sept. 21, 1952.

• Sgt. Jack Weinstein, of Saint Francis, Kan., for courageous actions during combat in Kumsong, South Korea, on Oct. 19, 1951.

• Pvt. Pedro Cano, born in La Morita, Mexico, for courageous actions during combat in Schevenhutte, Germany, on Dec. 3, 1944.

• Pvt. Joe Gandara, born in Santa Monica, Calif., for courageous actions during combat in Amfreville, France, on June 9, 1944.

• Pfc. Salvador J. Lara, of Riverside, Calif., for courageous actions during combat in Aprilia, Italy, May 27-28, 1944.

• Sgt. William F. Leonard, of Lockport, N.J., for courageous actions during combat near St.-Dié, France, on Nov. 7, 1944.

• Staff Sgt. Manuel V. Mendoza, born in Miami, Ariz., for courageous actions during combat on Mount Battaglia, Italy, on Oct. 4, 1944.

• Sgt. Alfred B. Nietzel, born in New York City, for courageous actions during combat in Heistern, Germany, on Nov. 18, 1944.

• 1st Lt. Donald K. Schwab, born Hooper, Neb., for courageous actions during combat near Lure, France, on Sept. 17, 1944.



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